If you haven’t read parts 1 or 2 of Rotten yet, you may want to start here.
Only a sliver of light remained on the moon, making this night particularly dark. Being after eight in the evening, the man knew he wouldn’t be getting any dinner tonight. Not enough people were walking the streets. Not to mention, they were way less likely to give, or even speak to, a homeless man on the street after dark. He understood their caution all too well. He’d been living on these streets for several years now. In that time, he’d been robbed more often that he could count on his fingers and toes. He was a good man. Just lost. Not lost physically. He was lost emotionally. Beat down by the many passing feet, not giving him a second glance or worse, berating him for simply existing. One of these days, he wouldn’t anymore and that was okay with him. Better for him and everyone around him, it seemed.
But, for tonight, he only wanted a bit of food and a safe, warm place to sleep. Neither of which he was likely to find. As he was contemplating heading toward his normal sleeping spots, three dark figures wearing long black hooded cloaks emerged from a darkened side street and were heading towards him. He considered asking for some change or food but thought better of it. Who wears hooded cloaks these days, anyway? Probably only people with ill intent or weirdos, at best. Better to stay quiet and let them pass.
The three figures slowed their pace as they neared him. He wished his growling belly would be still and not draw attention, for once. A nervousness grew in him that he hadn’t felt in a while, even when he feared he would be robbed. Why was he so wary of these three figures? He pondered this while watching their feet, pretty little boots on each of the six feet, and realized they were women. This made him feel a bit less afraid but more aware that he may have to endure rude comments as they passed. That treatment was nothing new to him and he braced for it.
“Sir.” one of the women said. “Have you any food tonight?” the second woman asked.
“I’m hungry and tired, miss.” the elderly man replied. He was feeling more optimistic about this interaction, indeed. He might be able to sleep with a full belly tonight.
“We feel your discomfort, sir.” the third woman said. Each of them sounded exactly the same, so much that he could hardly tell which one was speaking.
“Take this bag.” the middle woman said as she put her hand into a small pocket inside her cloak and pulled out a canvas bag with a long strap. “Each time you reach into the bag, you will pull out a piece of food. Whatever you can imagine, you can remove from the bag so long as it causes no harm. You cannot pull meat or anything coming from a creature of any kind. One would be harmed if you did so, therefore the bag will not allow it. Do you understand?”
While he listened to her instructions, he noticed all three of their faces looked exactly the same. The only difference between them was their eye color. One woman had brown eyes with flecks of gold running through them. Another had green eyes as deeply colored as a field of grass in the spring. The middle woman, the one speaking to him, had blue eyes so pail they almost looked white in the dull light of the street lamps around them. He felt a warmth in their presence that he couldn’t explain. The confusion, always present in his mind, cleared and he understood exactly what was happening around him.
“I do understand.” he answered, surprised by the clarity he felt.
“So long as you have this bag, you will be fed. Do not store other things in it and guard it well.” the blue eyed woman said.
“How is this possible?” the man asked.
“Anything is possible with a little magic.” the woman replied as the other two of them smiled. “Now rise up and make a home for yourself. You will never want for food again.” the brown eyed woman said. With that, all three women stepped past him and carried on in the direction they were going. The man reached into the empty bag and pulled out an apple. He immediately put it on the ground beside him and reached in again, this time pulling out a tomato. Baffled, he put that down as well and tried something a little more complicated. Reaching into the still empty bag, the man pulled out a bread roll that was somehow still warm from the baking process. His smile lit up his very soul as he scooped up his belongings and hobbled off to eat and sleep in peace.
The sisters strode down the road, having just helped the old man sitting on the sidewalk. Helping those in great need was their purpose on this earth and they took it very seriously. They also loved every moment of it. Their mother, grandmother, and her mother before her had all been born with a gift which was nourished and grown by their families until they were ready to go out into the world to use it. All the women in their family, down through the generations, had a natural gift for witchcraft. These sisters were exceptionally special as they had been born triplets. Their only difference being their individual eye colors. Because they were triplets, their power was increased by three. They traveled together, helping anyone they encountered who truly needed it and were deserving of it. They could see the light in people and knew right away if the universe wished for them to intervene.
On this night, they were making their way through a random city when they overheard two people talking about a fire who’s smoke was hovering in the woods and not dissipating. They spoke of a firefighter who fell down dead when he entered those woods. A heart attack was suspected but the sisters knew exactly what this must be. They didn’t need to speak a word between them, only a glance was necessary to know what they would do next. Ducking down a side alley, they prepared to travel when a deep voice echoed through the narrow street.
“You ladies lost?” the voice asked. The sisters knew this person meant nothing good for them. They halted and stood side by side, staring at the man just fifteen feet in front of them. “Hey, guys. There’s enough for all of us.” he said as several more men stepped into the alley from a doorway in the side of a building. The sisters were not shaken by this, only disappointed.
“What’s your names?” the ringleader asked, although they knew he wouldn’t care if they told him or not.
“Agnes.” the brown eyed sister said.
“Astra.” the green eyed sister said.
“Aurora.” the blue eyed sister said.
“You guys sisters or something?” one of the other men asked.
“I know, right? Damn near can’t tell them apart.” another added.
“I don’t care if they’re the tooth fairy. We’re gonna have us a good night tonight. Aren’t we, ladies?” their leader said with a smirk.
“Please. Choose peace.” Agnes said. Her sisters stood confidently with her. They all knew what would likely happen but they always hoped for a better outcome.
“Oh, I’ll choose peace, honey. I’ll take a piece of each of you.” the leader said as the men closed in on them, maybe eight feet from them now and circling. The sisters turned so each of their backs touched the other. They needed to face their foes, if that’s what these men were choosing to be to them. Enemies.
Their leader pulled a knife out of his pocket and flicked the blade open with great fanfare. The sisters were not shaken. They only waited for the men to make their final, irreversible decision. Only then would the sisters act. When it was clear all hope for these men was lost. That moment came when one of the men grabbed for Astra’s arm. All three sisters held their hands up, palms facing the men, and their eyes glowed a bright and iridescent light. Each man halted, frozen in place except for their eyes which darted wildly trying to figure out what was happening, no doubt.
“You should’ve chosen peace.” Agnes said. Her hand twitched slightly and all four of the men cracked loudly as their heads sharply turned a full one hundred and eighty degrees, breaking their necks in unison. The sisters lowered their hands together and the men fell to the ground in heaps.
“Sometimes, I worry you enjoy that too much.” Aurora said to Agnes.
“We live by a code and we honored it. They chose violence after we asked them to choose peace. Our souls remain clean and theirs are released to pay the price for their wickedness, just as the universe intended for them.” Agnes replied, expressing with her tone that she had indeed enjoyed making the men pay for their wrongs.
“It was quick and painless, sister.” Astra said to Aurora. “Which is more of a kindness than what they planned for us.”
The three sisters stood in the shadows of the alley, now littered with four dead bodies, and held hands in a small circle. Staring into each other’s eyes, once again glowing with power, Astra said “Take us there” and the sisters disappeared. Silence overtook the temporary resting place of the men who’s hearts chose violence and paid the ultimate price for it. Someone would find them soon enough and the deaths would likely be blamed on gang violence or maybe a drug deal gone wrong. An end befitting of such evil men, indeed.
The sisters appeared on a gravel path amid trees and grass. One direction led to a large, beautiful house. The other direction showed nothing but more trees and evidence of a fire. This is where they knew they should be going although it wasn’t where they felt the pull of dark magic. Only where it must’ve come from. Walking deeper into the woods, Aurora was the first to see the carnage in her head as they approached the starting place of the fire. She sent it to her sisters and they all stood still to take it all in. Every detail of the vision could be a clue.
They saw a tree with ropes hanging from it. Many ropes, each one representing a life taken. A witch tortured. Or, in a few cases, a simple person accused, but not actually holding the title, of being a witch. Each of these people, witch or not, were hurt repeatedly before being strung up on this tree and the life taken from their lungs. Blood dotted the ground and deep sorrow was thick in the air.
Then, came a girl and her parents, clearly witches. The girl was held back as her injured parents were led to the hanging tree. The dead tree. Her mother begged for her to guard her soul against the pain of their loss. “Do not let this spoil your spirit.” they heard the mother call to her child. “Do not let this spoil your spirit.” Their bloodline of witchcraft was pure and strong. Natural witches are the strongest, by far, and this girl was one of those. She’d been mistreated in this town. She and her parents, too. They still remained and tried to help but the people turned against them.
Their daughter’s bitterness was materializing. Manifesting in her soul in the darkest of ways. It took hold of her just before her parents were killed. Her eyes turned black with hatred. Tears of blood stained her face and anointed the evil birthed in her from this unjust tragedy. She now stood in front of the tree and spoke to the townspeople, vowing revenge, and cursing the tree. Her blood flowed into it and turned it black with her hatred.
The sisters now fully understood what they were dealing with. A natural witch had been so damaged that her soul turned to evil. Not that her soul was bad but that it was actual evil, personified. Palpable evil that you can see, touch, and taste. She was in the tree and someone must’ve burned it, likely trying to rid themselves of the evil in it. That only made the evil airborne, traveling, looking for a place to rest and seek its revenge. That’s all true evil ever wishes to do is cause harm. Chaos and pain are its only objectives and it carries them out well. The young witch it began in, died the day she put herself into the tree. Only evil remains now and its on the move.
Aurora’s eyes dimmed and she wept. Her sisters huddled around her to comfort their sister. She was always the one to feel emotions the deepest. No words were exchanged. Only an embrace filled with love to lift their sister out of someone else’s despair she was experiencing. After a few minutes, Aurora was able to calm herself. As they stood together, recovering from their vision, a man approached. He stopped at the fence that still remained partially intact, even after the fire.
“Are you here for the curse?” he asked, recognizing their cloaks and bright eyes. “My grandfather told me someone would come to help if it ever started feeding again. The evil, that is.”
“Yes, Rob. We’re here to help.” Astra said.
“How did you…I mean…I think it’s in the smoke. Every animal in those woods fled and the smoke doesn’t clear out. Rain doesn’t clear it. Wind, either.” Rob answered, obviously stunned but keeping his wits about him. He knew what they were. Witches. And not just normal witches, natural born and trained well. And triplets, at that. He was nervous to even be near them but kept reminding himself that these were good witches and would help, not harm.
“Go into your home and stay there. Keep your family and neighbors inside. Watch for the smoke to leave. When you see it is gone, you may move freely.” Agnes instructed.
“We will start in the morning, just as the sun rises.” Aurora added.
“Thank you.” Rob said. His flashlight flicked on as he turned and walked back to his home. It was getting late and the sisters needed to rest. Each of them waved their hand above their head and vanished into a small puff of smoke. Resting in their own log cabin in the woods of Wyoming, they would return just before dawn, ready to work. It wasn’t often that they received a task such as this. The universe usually put people in their path and they helped or released them. That was the normal way of things but every now and then, something upset the natural flow of life and needed to be dealt with. That was the case now and the sisters felt ready for the challenge.
The next morning, protection spells were cast and potions were concocted. The sisters traveled and were back at the charred remains of the tree this whole ordeal started in so many years ago. They began walking in the direction of the smoke filled woods a few streets down. Curtains would rustle every now and then. The sisters were well aware that they were being watched and that was okay. These people knew at least some amount of what was taking place. The sisters felt no need for discretion or secrecy.
It was a bright but cool fall day. Trees in this small forest still clung to some of their leaves making the few bare branches appear to reach out to them with long, bony fingers. The balance of good and evil was askew. Aurora felt it most and took her sisters hands as they neared the start of the treeline. Black smoke hung in the air between the silent trees. No bird or bug could be heard or seen. No bustling of critters in the bushes or squirrels jumping from tree to tree. The quiet was so thick it made their ears ring.
The sisters paused, drank a small potion from their pockets, clasped each other’s hands, and stepped across the threshold into the woods. People watching from their homes held their breath at the sight of the three mysterious women walking into the smoke, which enveloped them as soon as they stepped into it. Each of the sisters felt a heaviness settle on them and a strong desire to flee.
“Who enters here that I cannot wipe from the earth with a mere thought.” a voice said from everywhere around them. It was a higher pitched voice, like that of a young woman but the tone behind it was dark and deep. Like two tones mixed into one strange sound.
“We are light.” Astra said as all three sisters eyes brightened and shined.
“Light cannot be here. I condemn it.” the voice responded and all three women jolted back as if hit by an invisible wave.
“And who are you?” Agnes asked.
“I am resentment. I am coldness. I am contempt and animosity. I am all things hostile and malignant. Every evil thought is with me and I am in it. Every grudge holds me tight and every drop of venom contains me. I am hatred and all things repugnant. Who are you?” the voice asked.
Aurora began to speak, “We are witches, pure of spirit and full of light. Three of one…and each, one of three. You cannot stay here, you must….”
“Silence.” the voice boomed. Aurora stumbled back, caught only by her sisters tight grip on her hands. “You do not command me here. There is darkness among you. One with a spirit of vengeance. It calls to me like a calf to its mother, begging for food to nurture its unfed desire.” the voice said.
The sisters didn’t break their stances but each of them knew who this evil was seeking to attack. Agnes exhaled her stress and fear away but the evil was upon her, whispering into her psyche like a snake to its prey. Keeping low and hidden, it lulled her into thinking she was not affected while it crept into her mind to settle in. Aurora and Astra both sent light through their hands and into their sister, hoping to help Agnes fight the evil back but it was already infiltrating her body. Agnes tried to speak but the evil spoke for her instead.
“You are nothing. How can I take you so effortlessly if you are so full of light?” the voice mocked. Agnes pulled away from her sisters grip, floating just above the ground with her mouth slightly open and her brown eyes fading. Astra and Aurora put their hands together, palms facing palms, and began to chant softly. Light emerged from their tightly clasped palms and lit up the surrounding trees in spite of the black smoke hanging in the air. Before they were ready to release their spell toward their sister, Agnes shot up into the air then fell back to the ground, broken and bleeding. A drop of blood touched the clay ground and rotten roots burst through to drink it up.
Agnes crawled towards the light coming from beyond the trees while her sisters chanted louder and the voice laughed at the sight of it. Agnes made it to the break in the trees and was about to be free of the black smoke when it circled her feet like a wind tunnel and pulled her back in, much to the horror of people watching from their homes all around. Sticks and stones scraped her skin and provided a little more blood for the hungry roots. Astra broke from Aurora and ran toward Agnes, hoping the free her from the smoke swirling around her legs.
Aurora saw the chaos around her sisters and the struggle they were entangled in with the evil. She threw her hands up toward the sky, where the sunlight should’ve been if not for the thick, black smoke. Every loving thought she’d ever had came flooding back to her as she tapped into every drop of light in her body. Bright white fog began to trickle from her fingertips, replacing the black smoke surrounding her.
“Please, don’t!” Agnes yelled to Aurora through the windy commotion. “This is my fault. Let me be the one.” she pleaded. Without moving her mouth at all, Agnes and Astra heard Aurora’s voice echo in their minds.
“I love you both. Be at peace with my choice. Evil cannot survive in true love so that is what I give to you, my sisters.” Aurora said.
Astra jumped to her feet and put her hands above her head, too, hoping to help enough to spare Aurora’s life. Light began to come from her hands, too, but Aurora was already beginning to levitate. Astra knew she wouldn’t be able to reach Aurora’s level in time to save her.
“No! Aurora, no!” Astra shouted. Aurora’s eyes, nose, and mouth now emitted the bright white fog, which was quickly filling the space where the blackness had been. Then, above all the noise and mayhem, a quiet little song drifted in the air. The same song their mother used to sing when they were little.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”
Agnes recognized their mother’s voice first and shouted to Astra, “It’s mother! We must join together.” Astra grabbed Agnes, who was weak but still able to move some, and helped her over to Aurora. They quickly pulled off her shoes and socks, exposing her ankles and feet. Astra grabbed one ankle while Agnes grabbed the other. They both looked up and let their mother’s love rush through them, filling every fiber of their being with pure love. Black smoke swirled around them, filled with deep moans and screaming. The air filled with smoke stunk of sulfur but the air filling with white fog smelled sweet, like sunflowers in full bloom on a summer afternoon. White fog began to emit from all three sisters now and also came down from the tree tops. Within minutes, the last of the black smoke was gone, replaced with the iridescent white mist. Sunlight finally made its way through the mist and cast rainbows around the forest, signaling to the neighborhood that the evil was gone. Aurora floated back down and came to rest between her sisters, who were exhausted and barely able to lift up their heads from the ground.
“Aurora?” Astra whispered in her weakened state.
“Aurora. Is she okay?” Agnes asked, still bleeding slightly, but at least now tree roots weren’t lapping at her hungrily.
“She’s breathing.” Astra said. Their mother’s voice still hummed in the distance, getting softer every second.
“Mother saved her.” Astra said, her voice quivering with emotion. Agnes smiled and rested her head on Aurora’s leg, still unable to move much. The sun broke through the fog, burning most of it off, as people came into view from the treeline.
“Is anyone hurt in there?” a familiar voice called. Rob cautiously stepped into the trees as the others stood just beyond them.
“We’re here!” Astra yelled. “It’s safe to come in now. Evil is gone from here now.” she confirmed. People began flooding in to help the sisters to their feet. Aurora’s eyes fluttered and opened to see several people standing around her, encouraging her.
“She’s awake!” a woman shouted and a cheer erupted from all around. “It’s okay, honey. Don’t rush. You lay here as long as you need to. They’ve gone to get you some water.” the woman said. Aurora lifted her head and saw a girl, maybe twelve or thirteen years of age, standing next to a tree in the distance. The girl looked lost and Aurora was overcome with distress and sorrow just looking at her. They weren’t Aurora’s emotions, but hers.
“You don’t have to stay here, Flora.” Aurora said. Everyone around her turned to see who she was talking to. Much to their surprise, everyone saw the girl and jump back in fear. “Your parents love you very much and they’re waiting for you in the light. You’re free now. Go and be with them.” Aurora said. The girl smiled slightly and turn toward a beam of sunlight shining through the trees. She took one step into it and evaporated into the light, becoming a part of it and disappearing.
Everyone gasped but Aurora wasn’t done yet. A boy and his father stood just ten feet away, searching for someone. She knew who they were, too. Slowly rising to her feet, Aurora walked towards the pair and smiled graciously at them so they would know she was a friend. The father held onto his son and began to step in front of him until Aurora motioned toward his house.
“Your wife is in that house, Jason. She’s desperately sad and missing you, both. Go and watch over her for a time. Stay until she can smile again. She’ll feel you near her, I promise. When she is ready, you’ll know it’s time to move on. The light will come for you then.” Aurora instructed. The man looked cautiously at the house and the boy smiled. They walked towards the house and faded away a moment later. Everyone stood frozen in place, unable to wrap their minds around what they’d just seen. Aurora and her sisters gathered themselves, stood, and looked to the light coming in between the trees. “Thank you, mother” they thought in unison.
I hope you enjoyed the last of my three part story for Halloween weekend 2022. I make them annually for my podcast, True Hauntings & Scary Stories, every Friday before Halloween!
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Spook ya later….
LOVED THIS! I just now got the time to read it, it’s been sitting in my email. Now I’ll transfer it to my “True Hauntings ” folder to read again and again!